With the San Francisco Giants in the desert gearing up for the approaching season, fundamentals take center stage, especially for pitchers who must devote more of their time than they might like, preparing for the role of hitting. How much longer pitchers will bat in the National League remains to be seen, unfortunately, as talk of the designated hitter becoming universal throughout baseball, has once again surfaced.
They’re saying it’s inevitable because the realignment of the two leagues into two equal units of fifteen, means that the rule impacts at least one game every day a full schedule of baseball occurs, which amounts to the vast majority of the time. Currently, the hot topic is the reality of contenders going into September, having to rely on American League pitchers handling a bat.
Specifically, Jesse Spector of @SportingNews wrote a piece earlier this month which maintained it was “not a matter of if [the DH is coming], it’s a matter of when.” Citing the usual litany of reasons including the extension of players’ careers, the author also focused on Commissioner Rob Manfred’s view of the “major leagues’ recent dip in offense as something that is troublesome.”
Spector went on to observe flippantly that “an easy way to boost scoring would be to take fifteen pitchers’ spots out of the batting orders and replace them with men paid exclusively to swing bats.”
If offense is the only part of baseball that fans enjoy, why do the players wear gloves?
I find his argument to be shallow and somewhat vapid, making the assumption that the only reason we watch baseball is to see offense.
Yes, watching a ball leave the yard is grand entertainment, but it’s only one aspect of the game.
Jul 13, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner (40) hits a grand slam against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the sixth inning at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
I took umbrage when the author brought the World Champion Giants into his piece, by asking rhetorically how happy would San Francisco be to slot Buster Posey in as DH once a week. The answer is a question: How happy would the World Champion Giants be to NOT have Madison Bumgarner hit every five days.
Besides, Tim Hudson put a ball off the wall in Wednesday’s 5-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies, and the Giants pitchers pride themselves on their ability to handle the bat. There is an attitude that goes along with a championship team that says there are no free passes. Pitchers carry their own weight, even if it means unfortunate consequences.
The argument that the pitchers are paid to perform on the mound is ludicrous. Why should they not also contribute at the plate? Because they may get injured, the way Santiago Casilla did last May 21st in running to first base on a grounder to shortstop. The injury occurred in the ninth inning of a game the Giants led 5-1, before Santiago was a closer.
This came on the heels of a quad strain suffered by David Huff, a month earlier on April 21, when he legged out his first career hit on a grounder to shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. The pitchers get into the game as much as the position players do and they want to contribute. And yes, there are reverberations, not all of them positive.
There was a lot of chinwagging after the Casilla injury because Bruce Bochy had told Casilla not to swing. Casilla himself said he understood that he was not supposed to get carried away, but that the adrenalin kicked in and he was off to the races-and then to the hospital.
So it boils down to the way different teams approach the role of the pitcher at the plate and the way individual pitchers attack it. Take MadBum, for instance. I would not want to be in the same room when the normally stoic Bumgarner was informed that he was no longer deemed competent to swing a bat. In 66 at-bats last season, he had 17 hits, two doubles, four home runs, knocked in 15 runs, and scored ten times himself.
He was awarded the Silver Slugger Award for his success.
This ability on Bumgarner’s part is one reason why the Giants were able to power themselves to yet another improbable World Series win last year. And the Giants are supposed to be happy to DH Buster Posey once a week? If the Giants want to rest Posey, they have Hector Sanchez or Andrew Susac to work behind the dish, or Posey can “rest” at first base.
Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports. Giants win 4-2.
The final salvo in the article came in the most putrid of forms, as Spector intoned in conclusion that “The benefits of the DH are there for both sides, with opposition coming largely on sentimental grounds.”
I disagree. Among other reasons, the National League and most of its fans do not want the designated hitter for the following reasons:
First, not all fans see offense as the only reason to follow baseball; it is insulting to think that if a batter does not put a ball into play, that his at-bat was wasted.
Second, pitchers are an integral part of baseball and add an element to the game which allows individuals to enhance not only their team’s chances for victory, but their own, by swinging the bat
Third, as the game progresses, the strings a manager and his pitching coach can pull, as need arises, make those of a marionette puppeteer seem like child’s play.
Finally, if players wish to extend their careers longer, rather than relying on the DH for employment, maybe they should focus more on a proven personal fitness regimen to keep themselves in the bast possible physical condition.
I’m sorry, I just don’t buy the designated hitter business. Actually, I’m not sorry at all. The designated hitter rule came into existence in 1973, when I was 7,000 miles away, serving in South Korea in the US Army. It was as foreign to me then as it is to me now.
And I can assure you it is foreign to Madison Bumgarner as well.